How to Prevent Holiday Overspending

The magic of the season tends to end abruptly when your credit card bill arrives. If you have a habit of overspending during the holidays, here are some tips to help you avoid the Christmas sticker shock once it’s over.

Plan Early

The best way to stop overspending is prior planning. Make a shopping list that includes how much you’re going to spend on each person. When you start looking for gifts, take your time and keep an eye out for coupons and special promotions. You’ll prevent the high cost of expedited delivery if you need something shipped quickly.

Begin building your holiday budget early in the year and keep this fund separate from the rest of your accounts. Opening a dedicated savings at America First, for instance, will provide automatic transfers with compound interest each month.

Shop Smart

Don’t use the festivities as an excuse for overspending. Stick to your budget and track spending as you go—a little extra here and a little extra there adds up. And try to not exceed what you can pay off when your credit card balance comes due. Our Visa® Platinum gives you 1.5% cash back on all purchases, so you could even earn a little extra while you shop.

You can additionally consider actually going to stores instead of shopping online so you can save on shipping. However, when you do go out and about, avoid purchasing snacks or dining out. Those incidentals can negate any savings you’ve gained. Also, resist the urge to buy something for yourself when you’re getting things for others. If something catches your eye, put it on your wish list for someone else to pick up.

Travel Wisely

Family & friends enjoy getting together at Christmastime, but many don’t factor the cost of traveling into their holiday budgets. If you’re flying, start looking for deals well in advance. Buy your trip a month or two before leaving to miss the inevitable price crunch. If you’re driving, pack meals to eat along the way instead of stopping for fast food, then stay with your hosts, when possible, instead of getting hotel rooms.

Finally, limiting the time you’re away from home is a great way to stay within your holiday budget. You aren’t required to attend every party or event, especially if you haven’t got the money. Occasionally, even a Skype call will suffice. Careful planning when it comes to shopping and traveling is the best way to keep a lid on overspending.


Sometimes It’s Actually Rewarding to Skip a Loan Payment

It’s always important to stay on top of your loans. Regularly missing payments can negatively affect your credit & harm your financial well-being. Nevertheless, there are times when extra cash for unforeseen expenses or emergencies is needed, which is why America First offers a service where you can skip certain loan payments once a year with no adverse consequences.

How It Works

When you skip a payment, it doesn’t go away completely. You’re still required to pay the full loan balance, but it’s deferred until the end of the term. And it won’t be reported as late or make you incur any penalties.

It costs only $25 for this program, which is much less than most monthly payments. To see if you qualify, log in to your America First account, select the other services tab, and then click on Skip a Loan Payment. This will show you which loans are eligible. You can also visit your local America First branch or call 1-800-999-3961 to discuss it with one of our helpful team members.

The Fine Print

This option is only for personal, auto, and some home equity loans. It does not apply to long-term mortgages, business financing or Visa® credit cards. Members with accounts in good standing can skip one payment every twelve months—not once a calendar year. That means if you skip a payment on December 31, 2017, you can’t do it again the next day. You would have to wait until at least January 1, 2019.

A Holiday Perk

From now until the end of January, we’ll contribute $5 of the $25 fee to the America First Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in need. So, there’s an extra advantage to skipping a payment during the holidays—you’ll be helping the less fortunate in the process.


Overdraft Protection—A Financial Safety Net

While paper checks aren’t very common, most people use checking. In these accounts, money is subtracted when a transaction occurs. If there are no available funds and you attempt a purchase, it triggers an overdraft & your card will be declined.

If you have overdraft protection on your account, a financial institution will cover such a transaction and the purchase will go through, avoiding the inconvenience & awkwardness of being declined. Understanding this service and using it wisely can prevent a potentially destructive financial cycle.

Opting In

At America First, checks, automatic debits, and other payments or withdrawals you authorize for checking have automatic overdraft protection. Debit cards, however, aren’t covered unless you specifically request it. You can sign up online, visit a branch or call 1-800-999-3961 to opt in. This one-time step will cover all your debit card purchases and you can always opt out later if you change your mind.

Line of credit versus overdraft service

A line of credit is an open-ended loan, which means it can be used and paid off repeatedly. When it’s attached to checking, charges over your balance are applied to the line. It’s an extra buffer zone between how much you have, how much you can spend, and it helps you avoid overdraft fees.

The Cost of Non-Sufficient Funds

It doesn’t cost anything to sign up for overdraft service & most members never use it, but if your checking balance and line of credit are both exhausted and overdraft protection kicks in, there’s a $25 per-transaction fee. So, if you go to three different stores when your account & line of credit are maxed out and you buy three things, you could be charged up to $75 in fees on top of the purchase costs. It’s safe to say you shouldn’t rely on overdraft service & you should only use it in an emergency.

Keeping an eye on your checking balance, paying off your line of credit and spending responsibly will keep you from needing overdraft protection. However, knowing it’s there for emergencies will give you a little extra peace of mind.

Enjoy Some Financial Relief & Lend a Helping Hand to the Less Fortunate

Everyone knows it’s better to give than receive. But as a member of America First, you can do both!

Skipping a loan payment* is only $25 & when you take advantage of this option during the holidays, we’ll contribute $5 to the America First Charitable Foundation that assists the less-fortunate.

Then you’ll be free to go shopping, get caught up on your bills—anything you see fit. Plus, you’ll be helping someone in need. To see if you qualify, log in to free online banking.

*Terms and conditions apply. Not all loans are eligible. Ineligible loans include long-term mortgages, lines of credit & Visa® credit accounts. The America First Credit Union Charitable Foundation is a Utah-based, non-profit corporation.

What Are Your Most Cherished Childhood Holiday Memories?

By John B. Lund, President & Chief Executive Officer

Every January, the entire America First management team gets together to kick off a new year, discuss our strategic plan and budget priorities, and generate enthusiasm for achieving future goals. I was addressing the group a couple of years ago at this event and, as an experiment, I asked for three volunteers to come forward. My request was quite simple, but came it as a bit of a surprise.

I asked each to share his or her fondest or most cherished childhood memory from Christmas or the holidays. None mentioned a bicycle, doll, or any other toy or gift. Without fail and with visible emotion, they all spoke of experiences with family, friends and neighbors they held dear. We heard of enjoyable times spent together; of games, laughter, delicious meals, and renewing connections with distant family members; and we learned how providing a surprise act of service brought joy. In short, they highlighted the value and enduring nature of meaningful relationships.

This simple exercise vividly illustrated what we truly value—positive relationships developed and strengthened over time. Although the nature of our affiliation is not as deeply personal, it is our desire at America First to develop a valued connection and relationship with each member we serve. Building such trust requires time, commitment, care, and providing relevant products & benefits that save you money and simplify your financial life. That is our pledge to all of you.

It is our hope that during this season and throughout the year, we will make the effort to remain optimistic, look for the good in others, do some good ourselves, and perhaps create a cherished memory for someone.

We look forward to a lifelong relationship with you and your family. Please accept our best wishes for a merry Christmas and happy holiday season. Don’t forget to pick up your free 2018 calendar at any America First branch.

Your Partner in Financial Health

The America First Financial Solutions program, available through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS), provides a variety of insurance and investments that complement those offered by the credit union.

You can take advantage of advice and services to help achieve your personal financial objectives, whether these goals are saving for a home, providing resources for college, or planning a comfortable retirement.

We can assist you with:

  • 401k rollovers
  • Stocks & bonds
  • Mutual funds
  • Annuities
  • Life & long-term care insurance
  • Higher education planning

Your CFS representative at America First Financial Solutions is a registered, licensed and experienced professional who is dedicated to your financial health. Please call 1-800-999-3961 for a no-cost, no-obligation appointment or email your request to affsolutions@cusonet.com.

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (CFS), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Investment representatives are registered through CFS. The credit union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to members.


Being Thankful Can Help You Save

November is celebrated as a time of gratitude—a period to reflect on what we have before the focus shifts toward getting or giving what everyone wants. However, being thankful throughout the year not only improves our well-being, it benefits us financially.

Appreciate belongings

When you first move away from home, resist the urge to have everything your parents provided while you were growing up. It took them time to save up for things like a nice home, washing machine & dryer, and top-tier appliances. Enjoy the struggle of simpler days instead of immediately putting yourself in debt.

As you become more established in life, be satisfied with what you have. This will help you guard against the temptation to buy what you don’t need or can’t afford. Yes, your neighbor’s shiny new SUV may have Wi-Fi and drop-down video monitors, but try to keep in mind that your car still gets your family where it needs to go. Don’t confuse luxury with necessity.

Be thankful for money

Appreciating the cash you do have will help you spend less & save more. When you understand the value of a dollar, you won’t be as likely to decimate your savings to get possessions that don’t really matter. This grateful mentality also demonstrates the importance of having funds for the future. It will inspire you to make wise investments & increase your monetary stability.

Grateful for groceries

Eating out every day can take a big bite out of your budget. Buying groceries and cooking at home is a great way to save, especially during the holiday season. And before you go shopping, take inventory of what’s in your pantry. Use what you already have if possible—get creative.

Appreciate our good fortune

America’s middle class is quite wealthy compared to other parts of the world. Most of us have roofs over our heads, clothes to wear, clean drinking water and, if you’re reading this article, internet access. Keeping this perspective will give you peace of mind when rough financial times come. Plus, you’ll be more likely to give to charity which, as mentioned here, can be both fulfilling and have positive economic returns.


Tips for Filmmakers on a Tight Budget

Most amateur filmmakers don’t have the budget of even the cheapest Hollywood project, but if you’re aspiring to create your own great cinematic experience, here are some tips to help you financially.


If you’ve got a good story to tell, the film might practically write itself. Focus on creating versatile characters, interesting settings, engaging dialogue, and other original themes. Run your script by a few close friends and family to see what they think and incorporate useful feedback. A well-written screenplay is the backbone for a successful movie and all it costs is your time.

When it comes to actors, don’t just cast your friends. Hold auditions and find the right person for each role. Acting is one of the most visible parts of a movie, so having someone who performs poorly can detract from everything else. Regarding payment, let the applicants know up front that your budget is tight. Some up-and-comers will work for free to build their résumés.

Hire a small crew. Once again, be open about your finances—you might even be able to pay in pizza—but having one person run the camera, another to monitor the audio and someone else fix the lighting will prevent you from doing it all yourself and limit any mistakes. Plan your production ahead of time, too. Storyboard your ideas, create a shooting schedule and scout for locations. The more you prepare for filming, the less time and money you’ll spend when doing so. Nevertheless, be flexible. It doesn’t always go according to plan and you may find yourself trying different things to get the scene you want.


You don’t need the latest & greatest camera to get a good shot. An entry-level DSLR device will give your film a professional look. You can also buy a more expensive camera, then sell it online once production wraps. Some filmmakers have even shot an entire movie on their phones, though that’s only recommended if it fits your picture’s style.

Audio is another vital element. Bad sound can kill an otherwise well-made movie. A built-in microphone can only take you so far, so you might want to invest in a lavalier or boom mic. If the shot doesn’t sound right or there’s too much background noise, don’t be afraid to do another take. Use natural lighting as much as possible. After all, it is much easier to darken a scene and it’s cheaper, too. Good filmmakers don’t underestimate the power of good lighting and try to keep it consistent between shots.

Find places that work with your story, but limit the number of locations. More settings mean extra travel, which translates to more money spent. Also, be sure to only shoot where it’s permitted. A police citation can negatively affect your already low budget.


Get some inexpensive editing software for your footage. And don’t blow your budget paying royalties for music. Compose your own soundtrack or ask one of your favorite local bands if you can use a few of their tracks for free. As your film nears completion, use social media to market it. YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are all free and they’re a great way to generate buzz. Post your trailer or announce the premiere and get others to share it. You’ll be surprised how effective word-of-mouth can be.

And if you’re an amateur filmmaker who wants to see an example of when money clearly isn’t an issue for a movie, click the link below and enter to win exclusive America First premiere tickets to Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15.